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Heat Conservation in Liquid Iron

Dr. E. G. Hoel, C. M. Ecob and D. S. White; Elkem Foundry Products

Reviewed 2005-07-10

This paper will consider the amounts of energy that are lost from liquid iron during
typical foundry operations, look at some preventive measures as well as the benefits
of more effective heat conservation in liquid iron.
During processing liquid iron in ladles and holders, there will be a continuous reduc-
tion of temperature due to heat losses from conduction and radiation. In order to
keep a usable pouring temperature into the mould, these heat losses must be com-
pensated for by excess tapping temperatures at the furnace. This in turn leads to in-
creased cost of heating the iron, as well as higher alloy consumption and refractory
wear. By means of effective heat conservation, the losses and the consequences can
be minimised, and thereby reduce the overall cost of produced iron.
The heat losses comprise conduction heat transfer through refractory linings and
heat radiation from hot surfaces, as will be presented in more details in the following
with the ladle design as shown in Figure 1 applied for calculation purposes.

Figure 1: Heat conduction through a single component wall.

Conduction Heat Transfer

Conduction heat transfer is governed by Fourier’s law of conduction:
dT T − T1 T − T2
Q& = −k = −k 2 =k 1
dx L L
where Q& is the heat transfer per unit area (W/m2), k the thermal conductivity (W/mK),
T1 the temperature of the hot surface (K), T2 the temperature of the cold surface (K),
and L the refractory thickness (m). The equation is negative because heat transfer is
contrary to the direction of the heat gradient.
Thermal conductivity varies between different refractory materials, and with tempera-
ture, as indicated by Table 1 below. Data on specific materials is available in referen-
ce books or from the supplier of the refractory material in question.
Table 1: Some Typical Thermal Conductivity values.
Material T [°C] k [W/mK]
Al2O3-SiO2 Low Al2O3 600 – 800 0.80 – 1.00
refractories High Al2O3 700 – 1000 1.20 – 1.25
Siliconcarbide, 90% SiC 1000 1.30 – 1.40
Insulating brick 200 – 700 0.30 – 1.40
Ceramic fibre board 100 – 500 0.30 – 0.80
Steel 50 – 250 0.04 – 1.06

Figure 2: Heat conduction through a single component wall.

An example of heat transfer through a single component lining:
T1 = 1480 °C = 1753 K, T2 = 45 °C = 318 K;
k = 1 W/mK for high alumina lining;
L = 51 mm = 0.051 m;
Q& = 1·(1753 - 318)/0.051 = 28.1 kW/m2
For a single component alumina lining, the heat loss is 28 kW pr square meter.
Doubling the refractory thickness will cut the heat loss in half, but is normally not a
useful solution for foundries that are trying to cut the weight of refractories to a mini-
mum. A better alternative is to combine different materials in a multiple component
lining. In this case, the heat transfer can be stated as follows:
T1 − T2
Q& =
L1 L2
+ + ...
k1 k 2
where k1 is the conductivity and L1 the thickness of material 1, etc.

Figure 3: Heat conduction through a multiple component wall.

An example of heat transfer through a multiple component lining, composing a high
alumina inner lining, an insulating brick layer and a outer ceramic paper layer:
High alumina: L1 = 25 mm, k1 = 1 W/mK;
Insulating brick: L2 = 25 mm, k2 = 0.5 W/mK;
Ceramic paper: L3 = 6 mm, k3 = 0.05 W/mK;
Q& = (1753 - 318) / (0.025 + 0.050 + 0.12) = 7.4 kW/m2
For a multiple component lining, the heat loss is 7 kW pr square meter. Thus, by
changing the refractory materials, the heat loss through ladle walls are reduced by
75% with only 5 mm increase in wall thickness. A reduction of 28 °C in tapping tem-
perature whilst maintaining the same pouring temperature has been reported by a
foundry by a similar change of ladle linings.
It should be noted that, in this case, the ceramic paper is the controlling factor,
having a far lower thermal conductivity than the other two components. To take
advantage of ceramic papers, the service temperature should not be exceeded and
this can be controlled by the application of the refractories used at the working face.
These should not only protect the ceramic paper, but also have a low heat capacity
to reduce the time and energy required for preheating. Further, the working face
refractory should be porous to allow escape of moisture during curing.
Other considerations in the selection of a refractory system include:
1. Knowledge of chemical reaction with metal or slags;
2. Consideration of the refractory service temperature and the actual temperature of
operation in the foundry;
3. Cost of installation and maintenance equated to the lifespan of the refractory.
It is an unfortunate fact that these factors often override the best refractory systems
in terms of thermal efficiency. On many occasions, the use of a highly conductive
working face material must be used, in which case selection of the baking materials
becomes more critical. A telling example of this is ductile iron where, due to an
interaction between magnesium and silica based linings, an alumina working face
refractory is preferred. Alumina refractories tend to be more conductive to heat and
thus the selection of other components in the system is more important.

Heat Radiation
Heat radiation is the main cause of heat loss from a hot surface (metal or inner ladle)
and is given by the following:
Q& = εσ (T14 − T24 )
where ε is the emissivity of the raditing body, σ the Stefan-Boltzmann constant
(5.67·10-8 W/m2K4), T1 the temperature of the raditing body (K), and T2 the tempera-
ture of the receiving body (K).
The emissivity for a black body is 1, and for “grey” bodies between 0 and 1. Some
common values are given in Table 2 below.
Table 2: Some Common Emissivity values.
Surface T [°C] ε
Sheet steel 25 – 50 0.81 – 0.83
Molten iron 1400 – 1600 0.25 – 0.40
Al2O3-SiO2 Low Al2O3 0.65 – 0.80
1000 – 1500
refractories High Al2O3 0.45 – 0.60

An example of heat radiation from an exposed metal surface:

T1 = 1480 °C = 1753 K, T2 = 45 °C = 318 K;
ε = 0.33;
Q& = 0.33·5.67·10-8·(17534 – 3184) = 176.6 kW/m2 or 29.4 kW for 1/6 m2
From the exposed metal surface the heat loss will be 29.4 kW. Covering the ladle by
a refractory lid will greatly reduce the heat losses, since after the initial heating of the
lid, the net losses are restricted to conducted heat, ranging from 4.7 kW using a
single component lid, down to 1.2 kW using a multiple component lid. A foundry with
a 2.5 m long launder spout from a cupola, gained 22 °C by covering the previously
open launder.
After emptying the ladle, the hot refractory lining will be the emitting body. According
to Figure 1, the surface is 1 m2. The net emitting surface, however, is limited to the
ladle opening, which is approx. 1/6 m2. Compared to a metal surface, a ladle lining
will rapidly loose temperature. Examples of heat radiation from a ladle lining at 1480,
1000 and 500 °C:
T1 = 1480 / 1000 / 500 °C = 1753 / 1273 / 773 K;
T2 = 45 °C = 318 K;
ε = 0.45;
Q& (1480 °C) = 0.45·5.67·10-8·(17534 – 3184) = 240.8 kW/m2 or 40.1 kW for 1/6 m2
Q& (1000 °C) = 0.45·5.67·10-8·(12734 – 3184) = 66.8 kW/m2 or 11.1 kW for 1/6 m2
Q& (500 °C) = 0.45·5.67·10-8·(7734 – 3184) = 8.9 kW/m2 or 1.5 kW for 1/6 m2
Thus, the heat radiation from an empty ladle will start at very high values (40 kW),
but will rapidly decrease and will at about 500 °C be of the same magnitude as the
conductive heat loss through a insulating cover. Hence, the cover must be put on the
empty ladle rather quickly after the pouring in order to give significant heat conserva-
tion. Our experience has shown that by covering the ladle between fills with a good
insulator, tapping temperature reductions up to 30 °C can be achieved, most notably
this can be seen in such systems as fixed top covered tundish ladles. Most of the
energy lost by radiation can be saved using a cover.
This paper has addressed the means of which heat and subsequently temperature
are lost, and it is apparent that the major advantages of reducing these are:
1. Reduce the energy costs associated with melting as lower furnace temperatures
are possible;
2. Increased productivity, due to reduced superheat requirements and thereby less
time in the furnace.
The gains are however not restricted to these, and the following benefits should also
be noted:
Increased refractory life: As stated above, the use of an insulating cover between fills
will reduce the temperature variations during the pouring cycle. This is advantageous
to reduce thermal shocks imposed on the lining, as well as ease slag removal when it
is more fluid and does not freeze to the walls. This increases refractory life and
reduces labour time/cost in repair.
Reduced alloy costs: Lower tapping temperature leads to increased magnesium yield
during treatments, and allows for less treatment alloy usage. From this, it may be
predicted that a reduction of tapping temperature of 25 – 30 °C can increase the Mg-
recovery by about 10%.
Covered tundish ladle: Use of a tundish cover increases the efficiency of MgFeSi
treatments considerably. Typically, Mg recovery in an open ladle is 30 – 70%,
whereas with the tundish 50 – 80% could be expected.
Casting quality: Thermally ineffective ladles can result in variable pouring tempera-
tures and difficulties in controlling the temperature during the day. Such variations
may lead to sand burn-on or porosity from hot metal, and cold misruns or slag
defects from cold metal.